It takes a village – a European-style Christmas village – to celebrate the holidays at the Dallas Arboretum. On view through December 31, the Dallas Arboretum’s Pauline and Austin Neuhoff Family Christmas Village is a hamlet of 12 ornate houses representing old world European-style shops and facades visitors can explore while admiring more than a million lights.
Along with the “12 Days of Christmas,” a series of musical gazebos depicting the beloved carol, the Christmas village adds a new dimension to the Arboretum’s holiday festivities.
“We love the holidays, of course,” Elspeth Nelson, the Dallas Arboretum’s Director of Facility Operations, said. “’The 12 Days of Christmas’ has been a wonderful new tradition we felt we built here in the city, but we wanted to do something new and exciting and something that’s a little more interactive.”
DeGolyer House’s “Christkindlmarket Treasures,” collections of ornaments and handcrafted items found in European Christmas markets, rounds out the Arboretum’s Christmas offerings.
The village’s individual houses are 16 to 19 feet tall, large enough for several adults and children to step in and learn about the various businesses represented. An activity guide leads visitors on an animal scavenger hunt and offers holiday trivia from around the world. Visitors can enjoy gingerbread at the bakery and pick up a band-aid at the doctor’s office. Local choirs and musicians fill the village with the sounds of the season.
The Dallas Arboretum turned to C. Scenic to create this Christmas village.
“Dallas Arboretum’s President, Mary Brinegar, gave us this first directive: ‘Design something world-class that people from all over would want to come and see.’ We took that to heart. We looked at thousands of photographs and images and watched hundreds of videos of existing holiday villages and Christmas-themed movies. There is such a massive amount of material available. We took a lot of cues from Pauline Neuhoff and Mary Brinegar to keep the project on track and conceive their vision. As designers, it's exciting to look at the various scales of existing work, from Disney's larger-than-life creations, to Hallmark's tiny holiday buildings—examining their attention to detail, and then challenging ourselves to go beyond what we are seeing,” Paul Warmus, project manager and designer for C. Scenic, said.
The village features a flower shop, a candy shop, a music shop, a bookstore, a hat shop, a butcher, a carpenter shop, a cobbler, a post office, a doctor’s office, a bakery and of course, Santa’s house. “His house is beautiful because the interior murals are just what you imagine a beautiful home looks like at Christmas,” Nelson said. “The candy shop is really precious and really fun. It has nice bright colors and that’s a real treat. I also like the butcher shop. It has a lot of great detail to it and I like the hanging copper sign outside of it.”
Getting the details right was key to making the village magical. “We worked hard to make the decorative trim work, window displays and metal signage aspects unique—beyond anything you could find on a shelf. We partnered with Michelle Bond, art director extraordinaire, and the master craftsmen at Tiger Heart Metalworks to assist in this endeavor,” Warmus said.
Pauline Neuhoff was personally involved in the creative development of the village, suggesting details and activities in the houses. “She has been a Christmas dream come true,” Nelson said. “It’s been a lot of fun watching her watch the village come together.”
From the beginning, Pauline talked about melding traditional German elements with the fantastical. She emphasized attention to whimsical details and really helped guide the creative character of the Christmas village,” Warmus said.
This winter wonderland is designed to disappear during the Texas summers and withstand the climate in the long term. “The buildings are designed to be taken apart and put back together multiple times. There are two main parts to each building: the roof/gable and the walls/base. Each has a metal structure with forklift chases and/or crane pick points for ease of installation and strike. There are removable eaves and awnings to make at least one-dimension length less than 10' wide. This allows for the buildings be transported on public roads to off-season storage. Exterior grade materials were specified for the interior/exterior skins and trim,” Warmus said.
There will be more Christmas cheer next year. These twelve houses are the first phase of the village. Ten more houses will be added in 2020, each a labor of love. “As we move in to designing Phase II, we are treating each one in turn as if it is the favorite and showering it with love and attention while keeping in mind the relationship each has to the other and its environment as a whole,” Warmus said.
Learn more: https://www.dallasarboretum.org/